A hunter has been found guilty of involuntary homicide after shooting and killing a walker he mistook for a wild boar in southeast France. The walker, Jean-Louis Blanc, 59, was picking holly in a forest in Taulignan, Drôme, when he was shot by Luc C, from Vaucluse, in December 16, 2017.
Courts in nearby Valence yesterday condemned the hunter to a two-year suspended prison sentence and a five-year ban on buying weapons that require a permit. He must also pay damages to civil parties involved.
Family calls for harsher sentence
The victim's wife and family were in court and a lawyer speaking on their behalf said they would have preferred a prison term, rather than a suspended community sentence, “to indicate the seriousness of the crime”, said a report in France Bleu.
The court also heard that the victim could have been on all fours while searching for holly and might have been wearing his hood which could have given the impression of a being an animal, as seen from the point of view of the hunter.
Throughout the trial, the hunter, 62, expressed his regret over the incident. He was described by witnesses as careful and responsible, with his lawyer adding that he was not “trigger happy” and was now "a broken man", undergoing counselling. "He is unable to look at his grandchildren without thinking of what happened," said another of his lawyers.
Alcohol and drug tests he took after the incident both returned negative.
Number of hunting deaths ‘worrying’
A report from biodiversity agency l'OFB shows that accidents and fatalities rose over the last hunting season.
During the period for 2019-2020 there were 141 accidents - including 11 deaths - as opposed to 131, and seven deaths, the previous year.
Of all hunting accidents in the 2019-2020 season, 90% of the victims were hunters themselves.
But the report also showed a larger trend towards fewer accidents over the past two decades. Since 1999 they have fallen by 41% and deaths fell by 71%.
However, it said: “Even if they are going down, incidents are very worrying and necessitate a real awareness that every bullet fired [should only] be fired after anticipating the risks involved.”
Collective calls for change in hunting laws
This comes the collective Un jour un chasseur has launched an appeal for testimonies from people who have been the victim of stray bullets, threats and intimidation from hunters.
The collective was formed by six women after their friend Morgan Keane was killed by a stray bullet while he was chopping wood in his garden.
One of the founders, Zoé, told news source FranceInfo that since the campaign had launched online, “many people have taken the opportunity to tell us their stories. But at the end of their testimony, they repeat that they want to stay anonymous because they are really afraid of reprisals against them. In general, they are people who come from small villages, so everyone knows everyone.”
The collective is campaigning for a ban on shooting within 1km of where people live and raising the legal age for hunting licenses from 16 to 18.